Of all Houston's halls, Bravery feels the most like an old-school urban food market. Opening last July in a labyrinthine space at the ground floor of downtown apartment building Aris Market Square, it offers three bars and five chef counters where cooks chop, flip, and fire food right in front of you.
The idea is for Bravery to nurture concepts while helping chefs, who rent out their stalls for three years, make the money they need to move into the next phase of their careers. “This whole project was based entirely on stripping away the layer of service—the service would be done at the counters—so that all of the tip share would go to the vendors themselves, to the staffs entirely. They can make twice as much as they would make at a conventional restaurant,” says Shepard Ross, partner at Company of Nomads, which operates Bravery and is in the process of opening the upcoming Railway Heights market and moving Conservatory. So, for example, Uchi alums Daniel Lee and Patrick Pham, who operate Kokoro at Bravery, are applying what they’ve learned to their newest standalone concept, Handies Douzo in the Heights.
Inside Bravery's industrial-chic space, each eatery has its own distinct design. The centerpiece is the long Bravery Wine Bar, whose 30 draft wines span the globe, from Napa to Austria. Guests can order a drink there, at the front-of-house cocktail bar, or at Secret Garden in the courtyard. All of which adds up to a plethora of options for eating and drinking, and a robust customer base. “Lunch business definitely is fine,” says Ross, “but we pull more of a dinner clientele than we realized we would.”
What to expect, straight from the chefs
- The chefs: Daniel Lee and Patrick Pham The concept: Sashimi, nigiri, and maki, plus yakitori and izakaya-style bites, by the talented Uchi alums
- Why Bravery? “The space is so small, we felt this was the best first restaurant we could do,” says Lee. “And being downtown, you’re in a prime spot.” What’s special? “My background is Vietnamese, and his background is Korean,” says Pham. “So just because we’re doing sushi doesn’t mean you have to stick to the tradition.”
- Signature dish? Chicken fried rice topped with a fried egg. “When we were looking at the tickets, we were like, ‘Whoa, this is the most popular thing we’re selling,” says Pham. “We were very surprised.”
- Favorite dish at another Bravery concept? Spaghetti at BOH. “The dough, the sauce he makes—it’s good!” says Lee. “Crazy good.”
- The chef: Ben McPherson
- The concept: Homemade pasta and Roman-style wood-oven-fired pizza by Houston’s go-to pasta maker
- Why Bravery? “It’s the chef focus, so clearly I can put my best foot forward. They let me push myself and have complete confidence in me.”
- What’s special? “I try to do the most technically forward work I can with pasta and pizza, with the simplest ingredients.”
- Signature dish? Pappardelle Bolognese. “I’ve had it everywhere I’ve ever been.”
- Favorite dish at another Bravery concept? The gumbo at Cherry Block. “They use potato salad instead of rice, so it adds that creamy, over-the-top, punch-you-in-the-face feeling.”
- The chef: Jess Timmons
- The concept: Timmons has partnered with Felix Florez, owner of Black Hill Ranch, for her ranch-to-plate cuisine.
- Why Bravery? “This was a way to diversify himself,” says Timmons of Florez, who secured a spot at Bravery before recruiting her. “Our goal is to go out and do more than one Cherry Block but keep that small counter-service feel.”
- What’s special? “The pasture-to-plate aspect is super-important,” says Timmons, explaining that Florez brings in an animal every week, which she butchers and cooks. “Everything we’re getting is from here on the Gulf Coast.” Signature dish? Gulf and Ranch, an andouille-stuffed ribeye cap. “You can get a ribeye somewhere, you can get a filet somewhere, but it’s not going to be as good.”
- Favorite dish at another Bravery concept? The bacon-and-avocado omelet at Atlas Diner. “It’s Japanese-style—a rolled omelet that’s double-cooked, so it’s nice and fluffy.”
- The chef: Christine Hà
- The concept: Vietnamese street food from Houston’s own season-three winner of MasterChef
- Why Bravery? “I thought managing a small station with only 16 counter seats, inside a hall where I’m long diner shift. Gotta be fast on my feet!” I'm surrounded by seasoned chefs, would help me get my feet wet.”
- What’s special? “I wanted to showcase lesser-known dishes—mainly street foods and home-style comfort foods—with my own personal, modern twist.”
- Signature dish? Rubbish apple pie. “I put a Vietnamese twist on the American classic by adding spices reminiscent of pho and doing a fish sauce caramel.”
- Favorite dish at another Bravery concept? Shrimp and cracklins at Cherry Block. “It’s low-carb, and the proteins are always cooked well.”
- The chef: Catt Lee
- The concept: Old school diner counter with blue-plate specials and an all-day breakfast
- Why Bravery? "The open kitchen and diner-counter experience allows the guests to become part of the culture we are trying to create. I get to chat with them while I prepare their food. Truly interactive!"
- What's special? “Our concept allows us to do offbeat takes on diner classics, and most of our ingredients are locally sourced and thoughtfully prepared.”
- Signature dish? Butter chicken and chips. “It’s great to share with your table, and the flavors really pop. It’s become a crowd favorite.”
- Favorite dish at another Bravery concept? Peanut tofu at The Blind Goat. “The noodles are perfectly chewy, and the peanut sauce is the perfect marriage of spicy and vinegary. It’s still light enough to eat before a long diner shift. Gotta be fast on my feet!”
- Address: 409 Travis St.
- Hours: 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sun–Thurs; 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Fri–Sat
- Kid-Friendly? Yes, but best before 5 p.m.
- Parking: On street metered until 6 p.m.; public lots and garages
- Seating: Dining tables, counter and bar seats; outdoor tables at Cherry Block and Secret Garden